Spring is here and with it brings the best source of plant food, wild spring edibles. I harvested several pounds of AlliumTricoccum so I decided to make a pesto out of the leaves. Pesto is among my favorite ways to enjoy wild plants for several reasons of which I will discuss below.
Pesto is a traditional Italian sauce made with pine nuts, fresh basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and garlic. I decided to put my own spin on it and use ingredients I had on hand which where Pecans, Ramps, Hemp seeds, Romano cheese, Lemon Juice and Olive oil.
Though these were ingredients I already had, they were also chosen specifically for their taste, nutrition and overall benefits to health.
Pecans are by far my favorite nut. They are a species of Hickory and closely related to walnuts. Also, the species have not been subjected to significant breeding and hybridization much like almonds or other nuts. Overall this means they have a more favorable fatty acid ratio and are high in Monounsaturated fats, the same beneficial fats found in olives. They are also native to North America and were an important food crop of several Native American tribes. Not to mention they taste awesome and are about 70% oil. Wild varieties are still available here.
The most important part of this recipe is, of course, the ramps. They come with a whole host of benefits. Some of these include high levels of vitamin C, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. If you have not tried ramps you will not be disappointed, they are exceptionally delicious.
The final important ingredient I want to touch on is the cheese. I find it's no coincidence that traditional cultures chose to combine certain foods with others. Hard cheeses like Romano and Parmesan contain high levels of vitamin K2, a fat soluble vitamin that directs calcium into it's proper locations within the body. Hard cheese, especially when unpasteurized, contains high levels of bio-available calcium which further helps to nourish our bones and teeth among other things.
One final point I want to touch on is an additional benefit of pesto and the importance of vitamin C in general or better yet, the importance of proper food combining. Vitamin C has been shown to counteract the phytic acid load of a meal in as little as a 50 mg dose per meal. Phytic acid is the storage form of phosphorus and can inhibit absorption of important minerals such as calcium, iron and more. Given this fact, we can better understand the importance of proper grain and nut preparation and the importance of adequate dietary vitamin C. Wild Plants such as Ramps contain higher levels overall of cultivated plants.
1 bunch of Wild Leeks/Ramps about enough to loosely fill the food processor
1 cup Pecans(sub hazelnuts)
1/2 cup 1x1 inch hard cheese cubes
1/4 cup of EVOO (more or less as desired)
tablespoon of lemon juice
pinch of salt
Making the Pesto
Step 1: Combine the nuts and cheese in the food processor.
Step 2: Pulse the ingredients until chopped to your desired texture.
Step 3: Add the prepared Ramp leaves and the remaining ingredients. By prepared I mean chopped coarsely with bulbs removed. Personally I find them better for cooking. Further harvesting large quantities of bulbs is unsustainable.
Step 5: Pulse until thoroughly combined and smooth. Serve with your favorite grain such as Wild Rice, Sourdough bread or Wholegrain pasta. This pesto makes a great topping on fish and meat as well.
Note: If you don't have access to any Wild Leeks you could substitute Arugula and add a few cloves of Garlic to achieve a similar taste.